How Sustainable is Your Lifestyle?

By Staff

A Quiz Part 2

Landscaping, Transportation, Food, Slowing the Waste Stream
All the little things we do, day in and day out, make a difference. So much of living sustainably is cultivating healthy habits —
some trivial in themselves. Over the years, however, they do make a difference.
But first, let’s get a baseline reading. These are not punitive questions with hard and fast answers, just a way for you to pause and assess where you’re at amidst the possibilities. Then you can choose which steps you might take toward a more sustainable lifestyle.
Most of the following questions are based on information in You Can Prevent Global Warming (and Save Money!) 51 Easy Ways, by Jeffrey Langholz, PhD and Kelly Turner. We highly recommend this book.



Made in the Shade

q Are your air conditioners shaded? Doing so will improve its efficiency by 10%.

q Are south-facing walls shaded or covered with vines? A vine-covered wall can be 40ºF cooler than a bare wall.

q Are your roof, concrete and asphalt surfaces shaded with high-canopied trees? Doing so will make your yard an island of coolth. One maple tree has the cooling output of a large window air conditioner.

q Are your west-facing walls shaded with bushes to block afternoon sun?


q Is your garden regularly mulched? Doing so can reduce watering needs by 40%. The major portion of the cost of culinary water is the energy to filter and distribute it.

q Do you have an electric mower or a gasoline-powered mower? Gasoline-powered mowers emit 11 times as much pollution as an automobile. Wouldn’t you rather spend your Saturday mornings at garden stores instead of mowing the lawn?

q Is your garden designed
with zones for high-water use and low-water use so you can enjoy areas of luscious greenery while saving water overall?

q Do you test your irrigation system at the beginning of the growing season for completeness of coverage, broken sprinkler heads and to make certain you’re not watering the street?

q Do you water your yard between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.?

q Are you worried about fungus because of watering at night? Don’t. Our climate is too dry for fungus and other diseases to spread from watering at night. Snails maybe! (And do be careful of the zinnias.)

q Have you been to Jordan Valley Water Conservation District’s demonstration garden at 8215 S. 1300 W.? Or to their web site What are you waiting for?


Driving yourself? Crazy!

q Did you know your car is responsible for as much carbon dioxide as your house?

q Did you know that a lightweight vehicle will emit six tons of carbon dioxide per year?

q Do you know where your gasoline comes from?

q Did you know that the catalytic converter on your car does nothing to reduce greeenhouse gases?

q Do you keep track of how much money you spend on gasoline?

q Does your car have a fuel efficiency gauge? Will your next one?

Not driving yourself crazy as often

q Do you do as many errands as possible in one trip? A warm engine is more efficient than a cold one.

q Do you shop in your neighborhood when appropriate?

q Do you shop over the internet for goods you’d otherwise buy from chain stores?

q Do you keep shopping lists so you can limit the number of times you shop each week?

q Have you considered living in a transportation-friendly city instead of living an Oil Baron-friendly suburb?

q Is the average occupancy of your car suited to the actual occupants?

Let someone else drive. Sane!

q Have you tried mass transit for your commute to work or school?

q How many more books could you read a year if you weren’t driving? How many magazines is that? You could become an expert on global warming.

q Do you know the mass transit routes that serve your home and school or place of employment?

q Do you know where to get information on mass transit?

q Does your employer offer incentives to use mass transit? If so, do you take advantage of them? If not, will you talk to them about it?

q Could you join a carpool?

q Does your family have a variety of transportation options, from transit passes to bicycles to a vehicle for the whole family?

q Do you lobby your elected representatives for more transit options?

Not driving. Anybody crazy.

q Do you know the restaurants within walking distance of your house? Do you patronize them? On foot?

q Did you know most dogs’ favorite activity is walking, and that they don’t care if you actually have a destination?

q Do businesses in your neighborhood have water and a place to leave your dog?

q Do you have a bike?

q Do you have a lock for your bike?

q Does your employer offer bike parking, lockers and showers?

q Did you know fixing a flat tire is easier than brain surgery?

q Do you know the restaurants within biking distance of your house? Do you patronize them? On your bike?

q Did you know you can take your bike on TRAX? It’s a great way to accomplish the uphill portion of your bike commute!

q Does your employer offer a telecommuting option? Even one day a week can help reduce air pollution.

Getting a charge out of driving

q Is there a hybrid or electric automobile in your future? An electric scooter? An electric bike?

q Transit Info: And Maps


Green your eating

q Do you choose organic produce when possible? (American farmers use one billion pounds of pesticide each year.)

q Do you buy locally when possible? (The average meal traveled 1,200 miles to reach your dining room table.)

q How often do you go to the farmer’s market?

q Do you eat fruits and vegetables in season?

q Spring – Fruits: blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, pineapples, raspberries, strawberries – Vegetables: asparagus, carrots, onions, peas, spinach

q Summer – Fruits: bananas, oranges, peaches, plums, watermelons. Vegetables: corn, cucumbers, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, summer squash

q Fall – Fruits: apples, asian pears, coconuts, cranberries, grapes, tangerines. Vegetables: avocados, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks

q Winter – Fruits: clementines, grapefruit, grapes (red), kiwi fruit, passion fruit. Vegetables: chicory, kale, radishes, snow peas, sweet potatoes, winter squash

q Is it possible for you to have a vegetable garden?

Meat generation

q Did you know that every pound of beef represents 220 acres of rainforest clear cut to raise cattle?

q Did you know it takes seven pounds of grain which require 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef?

q The average American eats an average of 260 pounds of beef a year; how much do you eat?

q Did you know that if Americans reduced their beef consumption by 10%, that would free enough grain to feed 60 million people?

Slowing The Waste System


q Do you ask yourself “do I really need this?” when you shop? Remember, “You can never get enough of what you don’t need to be happy.”

q Do you buy quality—goods that last longer? For instance, a Mac computer will long outlast anything else, and avail itself of numerous upgrades.

q Do you know you can reduce by buying larger quantities? If you have storage space, purchase the largest available quantity when buying consumables you need. Much of the cost and therefore the energy in products is in the packaging. Plus you’ll save yourself an emergency trips to the store.

q Speaking of reducing would you like to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive? Then go to and contemplate the number of trees you’ll save.

q Do you want to save even more trees? Forward this address to all your friends.


q Do you give away or sell items you no longer need? Charitable organizations such as Deseret Industries, Big Sisters Big Brothers and Salvation Army will help you out. Or sell them yourself at yard sales or on e-Bay.

q Do you know when to reuse and when to put something out of our misery? Many old (and we’re talking only 10 or 15 years old) appliances, especialy refrigerators, are so inefficient that taking them directly to the recycler is the best thing you could do for the planet.

q Do you have a compost pile?

q Have you helped your pets cultivate a taste for table and refrigerator scraps?

q Do you have rechargeable batteries for all your battery-powered devices?


q Do you buy recycled goods when appropriate?

q Do you look for the recycling logo when you shop?

q Do you look for products that can be recycled, instead of tossed? You can buy the following recycled products:

q Paper – newspapers, printed paper, paper towels, paper napkins, toilet paper, facial tissues, egg cartons. Cereal boxes, shoe boxes, cardboard boxes, manila folders, envelopes, greeting cards and comic books.

q Plastic – plastic bottles, plastic toys, garbage bags, plastic garbage cans, recycling bins, stuffing for pillows, sleeping bags; synthetic fleece clothing, garden hoses and carpet.

q Glass, steel and so on – glass bottles, glass containers, anything glass (not in our city’s recycling bins, though); aluminum cans, nails, steel or tin-coated cans; anything steel; paint; re-refined motor oil’ wall insulation; pressed wood; roofing tiles; car tires; sawdust pellets for your fireplace.

q Do you recycle? At home? At the office? Do your household members and cleaning service know how to recycle?

q Do you know what should and shouldn’t go in your curbside recycling bin?

q Do you know what to do with items the city or county don’t pick up at the curb? Go to city/citys/salt_lake_city.html for answers to all your recycling questions.


Green electricity

q Do you know where your electricity comes from? Most likely it’s from one of Utah Power/Scottish Power/MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company /Berkshire Hathaway/Warren Buffet’s coal-fired power plants in southeastern Utah. Have you signed up to buy wind-generated power through the Blue Skies program? To buy wind power-generated electicity, go to

q Did you know you could generate electicity from wind or solar cells and sell it back to your power company?

q Did you know there are tax rebates available for installing solar energy panels on your house or business? To find out more Google “solar energy tax credits.”

q Did you know there are tax credits for energy-efficient applainces? To find out more Google “energy tax credits.”

Green investing

q What kind of world do you want to retire in?

q Is your portfolio helping achieve a sustainable world or one where escalating energy and environmental costs eat away our savings?

q Did you know that Socially Responsible Investments (SRIs) can compete with non-screeened funds because companies that care about the environment are often more energy efficient than their competitiors, giving them lower operating costs?

Start where you are

q We urge you to become an e2 Citizen.
Log onto Take the test to determine your carbon baseline.

q If you haven’t seen “An Inconvenient Truth,” see it. Take a teen-ager with you.

q In contemplating these questions and issues, we certainly learned a few things and hope that you did, too.

Now it’s time to come up with a list of steps you can take today that will help you live a healthier life—for you and the planet. u

This article was originally published on June 7, 2010.